Irving Schulman's

unknown players presents


Most people don't think about the fact that coffee culture has disappeared from American life. The way that we used to savor the aroma and catch the tail lift of a buzz, just from standing in line, chatting, at our local coffee shop is now different. The manners we used to sidle next to someone at the cream station are fundamentally altered. Of course, when we take a seat in a coffee shop these days, we manage to get there with only furtive eye contact established, nothing else possible. It wasn't like this before tech. Coffee shops were living laboratories of human interaction, where the preparation of drinks and the clinking of spoons were mere adornment for conversation. Interactions and unexpected outbursts of caffeine-fueled creativity were the norm. The behaviors have been stunted, seemingly permanently, with the advent of tech, but Café Stories is coming to the rescue.

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The run

Café Stories will preview September 7, 8, and 9 and then open on September 15th for a three week run, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays nights at 8 pm. The performances will not begin with a sappy speech, the hostess or host twisting their hands in quest of money or of some tired cliché about the special talents about to walk across the stage, which they've already soiled. The patrons will be requested to shut off phones for the duration of the evening and during intermission, the set will open up for fresh brewed coffee (decaf will be available) and 1990s-style basic scones and other baked goods. With any luck, Café Stories will transport an audience hungry for real-time interactions, back to a San Francisco that has all but disappeared.


The Plays

Set at a First Wave coffee shop in San Francisco, in 1990, Cafe Stories examines the pre-digital, pre-hyped coffee culture. Set in these mom-n-pop caffeine zones, right before the Second Wave (with Starbucks, Peet's, Einstein's,) spread nationally, choking the smaller cafés, the stories absorb our unacknowledged and overlooked debt. 

Regarding its proximity to hotness, a wiped down MacBookAir, and the supposed delicate ways one can flirt with (over all the other cozy distractions) someone wearing headphones, Third Wave needs to be reminded of their roots.
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Paternal revenge and fleecing; survival jobs, the over-educated homeless, and litigation over dropping a spoon; semi-professional theatre communities equipped with oblong and outsized egos: Café Stories will strafe and primp, stave off your complacency, and pamper your sense of the possible.

A character study of Russian Hill denizens who snipe, flirt and joke, Raul Delarosa’s Café Butterfly is irreverent and diverting.
Lorraine Midanik’s Reciprocity features long-time Bay Area talent Marvin Glass as Ed, a retired CPA whose wife’s recent death has forced him into an end game with his greedy, dyspeptic son.
Vonn Scott Bair’s recursive Sabrina on the Border satirizes the mid-sized city’s semi-professional theatre scene, and pays homage to the repertory artist who is on the road to becoming a diva, but unsure of the costs. Evoking Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in name, and his A Doll’s House in quality, Bair pierces into how the actor, in a market where it is impossible to make a living in art, comes to grips.

The Talent

The Unknown Players are actors who know they work in a city where talent is imported in for the big stages, where eking a living from the stage is a frightful prospect; they simply choose not to resist as theatre draws them helplessly into its maw. Betting on the idea that there's nothing to lose in being unique and idiosyncratic, Unknown Players serves as a pipeline to nowhere, as even imagining a pipeline to fame and theatrical success in San Francisco is a type of fool's errand. This smug acceptance of reality is what allows this theatre company to express the inherent contradictions of being an artist in a tech and banking town.